The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) took place in Las Vegas last week, giving us all the chance to see which direction commercial technology is likely to head over the next 12 months. The size of companies and quality of products exhibited varies greatly at CES, but there are always pleasant surprises and technologies to get excited about. This year, it was one of the largest, most prominent tech companies which provided the talking points in our office.

Making a Statement

Samsung revealed a handful of new products, including the Samsung LED F8000 TV which “understands” voice commands and natural language and responds accordingly. For instance, users can ask questions such as “Is there anything good on today?” and the F8000 will provide you with a list of recommended programmes. Then, there were some new kitchen appliances such as the Flex Duo oven, which can cook two meals at two different temperatures, and the T9000 “smart” fridge which is app enabled and can connect to other devices, like a baby monitor for example. While impressive products in their own right, it was a statement made by Samsung which proved to be the most astounding…

By 2017, all [of our] TVs will be IoT enabled, as will all our devices be in just five years.
— Samsung

That means that every single new Samsung product released from 2020 onwards will connect to other devices in some way. We discussed the way that our homes will likely become the main hub for all of our devices in terms of The Internet of Things, and with Samsung’s commitment to creating “connected” household appliances, this looks increasingly likely.


Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

On stage at CES, a demo was shown which demonstrated how these devices could work together in a conceivable way. The alarm sounds on a user’s smartphone which then triggers a wireless audio system to play music. The TV is then turned on automatically displaying news and weather information. If you are to walk away from your TV, it can sense that and automatically pause, resuming when you return to the room. If you are listening to music on your smartphone whilst out and about, then return home, the audio will move from your headphones to your house’s music system. It’s this level of interconnectivity which Samsung are hoping will be as standard in our homes. Such is their desire for widespread IoT adoption that they have also pledged open connectivity between their devices and other manufacturers’. This means that for all of a user’s devices and appliances to work together they wouldn't necessarily need to be Samsung products.

Samsung make a lot of different products. Televisions, phones, speakers, microwaves, washing machines, home theatre systems, vacuums, fridges, ovens. On one hand this means that they could standardise their entire range effectively, on the other, ensuring all these products are IoT capable in just 5 years’ time seems ambitious to say the least. It is exciting though! And the statement alone may push other big companies to try the same, or even move IoT in a different direction.

Chain Fail

However, perhaps the biggest stumbling block of IoT has to be battery life. We looked at this in relation to the iPhone feature, Siri, a couple of years back, and not much has changed since. Let’s say that certain devices around the home are activated in accordance with triggers used on a smartphone, or other portable device, battery life could be crucial in ensuring that “things” actually work. If you are relying on an alarm to wake you up, start your breakfast, run the shower and activate other specific sequences of events in relation to your schedule, you could be greatly inconvenienced should that vital link in the chain fail to do its job.

Samsung’s vision of the future when it comes to the Internet of Things is aspirational, idealistic and, for now, potentially flawed. A much more reliable way of powering these devices and safeguarding against failure needs to be established before we can think about relying on such an intricate network of components. The Internet of Things could eventually change the way we live our lives, but until we master stability we still have some way to go.

You can watch Samsung’s full presentation here, or go to The Verge for their five minute summary.